North of Dundalk, a few minutes’ drive takes you into the lovely scenery of the hilly, granite Cooley peninsula, attractive in its own right, but also overlooking tempting views of the Mountains of Mourne across the lough which divides the Republic from Northern Ireland.
Cooley is associated with one of Ireland’s best known myths, the Cattle raid of Cooley, in which Queen Maeve, jealous of her husband’s prize white bull, attempts to take it by force. Cuchulainn, a boy warrior, defeats her army and becomes the hero of the hour, but is mortally wounded during the battle.
Curiosities on the Cooley peninsula include the giant Proleek Dolmen, accessible via a footpath from the Ballymascanlon House Hotel, and the Windy Gap, a mountain pass closely hemmed in by cliffs and crags, and scene of an incident in the cattle Raid epic.
one of the most enjoyable places on the Cooley peninsula is Carlingford, between the green slopes of Slieve Foye and the blue waters of the lough, with the Mourne Mountains beyond. This delightful village makes a great base for exploring the area, with several excellent pubs and guest-houses.
For its modest size, it has some imposing monuments, indicating that it was a place of some significance during the Middle Ages, King John’s Castle stands on the norht side of the harbour, a massive D-shaped fortress dating from the 13th century. Its opposite number is Greencastle, on the Northern Irish side of the lough. In the village itself are Taafe’s Castle and the Mint, both fortified houses, and the old town hall, or Tholsel, an arched gateway.